The Government and Parliament
The functions of Parliament
Parliament's most important function is to exercise its legislative powers. Parliament has an independent right to submit legislative proposals, but in practice most decisions taken in Parliament are based on government proposals.
All proposals and initiatives are prepared in committees before final consideration. Once the report of the committee preparing a matter has been issued, the proposal is submitted to its first reading in a plenary session of Parliament. Legislative proposals are finally accepted or rejected during their second reading by the plenary session.
An Act adopted by Parliament is submitted to the President of the Republic for confirmation. The President must decide on confirmation within three months of the submission of the Act. If the President does not confirm the Act, it is returned to Parliament for further consideration. If Parliament readopts the Act without material alterations, it enters into force without confirmation. The Act must be signed by the President of the Republic. Unfinished business is carried over to the next parliamentary session unless parliamentary elections intervene.
The approval of Parliament is required for such treaties and other international obligations that contain provisions of a legislative nature or are otherwise significant. Parliament also takes the most important decisions related to State finances including decisions on the budget and taxes.
The Parliament considers those European Commission proposals for acts, agreements and other measures which are to be decided in the European Union and which otherwise, according to the Constitution, would fall within the competence of the Parliament. In such cases, the Government communicates the proposal to Parliament in order to determine its position. The Bank of Finland and the Social Insurance Institution operate under the supervision of Parliament.
Ministers and parliamentary work
Each minister has the right to attend the plenary sessions of Parliament and participate in its discussions. Ministers attend the meetings of the parliamentary committees only on request.
Successful discharge of ministerial duties requires active participation in the work of Parliament. Ministers should, in particular, follow the handling in Parliament of matters which fall within their own field of competence, and should attend plenary sessions on such occasions.
The minister concerned should address plenary session of Parliament during the preliminary debate and the first reading of a Government bill and participate in the debate as necessary.
Government Annual Report
Parliament is responsible for supervising the activities of the Government. For this purpose, the Government submits annually a report to Parliament. Government annual report contains information on the Government’s activities, the management of central government finances and compliance with the Budget as well as on the measures undertaken in response to parliamentary decisions. This report is considered in Parliament by the Audit Committee and then in plenary session.
An interpellation is a question submitted by at least twenty Members of Parliament to the Government or a minister concerning a matter falling within their mandate. Interpellations must be addressed to the Parliament’s Central Office. All interpellations are raised at a Parliament plenary session and sent for consideration to the Government. The Government formulates the answers to interpellations.
If a motion of no confidence is put forward during the debate on an interpellation, Parliament will, at the end of the proceedings, hold a vote of confidence on whether the Government or a particular minister enjoys the confidence of Parliament.
Members of Parliament may submit a written request to a minister on a matter falling within the minister's mandate. Written questions are sent from Parliament to the Prime Minister’s Office which then forwards them to the appropriate minister. After the Prime Minister’s Office has received the question, a ministry has 21 days to provide a written answer directly to Parliament.
Parliamentary question time is normally held on Thursdays at 16.00, in connection with a Parliament plenary session. The Speaker's Council may, however, decide to hold it either immediately before or immediately after a plenary session.
During question time, ministers answer unrehearsed questions. No more than a minute can be devoted to answering each question. Questions are devoted to a specific theme or matters belonging to a specific administrative sector. The Speaker's Council agrees on the theme for question time in advance with the Government.
The Speaker's Council may decide to organise a discussion on an issue of pressing topical interest, ruling at the same time on the practical aspects of the debate. The timing of the debate and the contributions of ministers is agreed in advance with the Government.
Reports and statements
The Government may submit a statement or report relating to governance or international relations to Parliament. Government reports are normally first discussed in committee; the resulting committee report then serves as a basis for debate by MPs. Government statements can also be sent for discussion in committee.
Debate on a Government statement may conclude with a vote of confidence on the Government or an individual minister. Votes of confidence cannot be held on the basis of Government reports.
Prime Minister’s announcement
At a time agreed with the Speaker, the Prime Minister may deliver an announcement to Parliament on some aspect of government business. The announcement may also be delivered by another minister designated by the Prime Minister. The announcement is followed by a general debate in plenary session without a vote.